Friday, April 9, 2010

American & Italian Perspectives of Venice and Traveling

As an American, traveling to Venice was a totally different experience for me. I had never been to Italy before and had always heard about Venice and seen pictures. I flew directly into Venice Marco Polo and stayed a few days in the city. Since then, I've traveled back to Venice two more times. For me, the train is the only option and is very easy to use. I typically avoid the tourist map and just wander around until I find what I'm looking for. Americans are generally interested in the museums, churches, monuments and tacky souvenir shops. For me, I feel like Americans stuck out very easily in Venice. I also went to Venice during two busy weekends-Carnevale and Easter. Many tourists from all over the world were packed into the small streets and into Piazza San Marco.

My Italian friends have very similar traveling experiences. Most take the train into the city, but others who own cars are able to drive directly there. Those who live around the area have been to Venice multiple times and usually know the easiest way to get around the city. Others have family members who know the ins and outs of the city. For the Italians, traveling to Venice is more common and not as popular as it is for all the other parts of the world. They also try to avoid the big holidays or weekends and try to visit during the week when it's less busy. Even for the Italians, the local people of Venice aren't the friendliest. We also both noticed that there aren't very many people our age in Venice. There were generally middle-aged and older families and not many teenagers.
In general, we didn't find many differences between our cultures and the way we travel. In the end, the way American and Italians travel is typically very similar and we both like experiencing the beauty of different places.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Family Weekend in Venice

This past travel weekend, I met my mom and dad in Venice. It was the first time I had seen them since January 14, so it was great to meet up with them! They flew into Venice and then went to Florence and on to Rome. On Saturday, I took the train into Venice and had to navigate my way to their hotel, which was pretty hard to find. It ended up being really close to Piazza San Marco and was a great location. I was sitting in the hotel waiting for them and they knocked on the window behind me. It was great to finally see them again!

I got to do a lot of things I hadn’t done the two times I went to Venice, so it was a lot of fun. We took a walking tour and went into the Doge’s Palace and through the Bridge of Sighs to the prison cells. Then we took a water taxi over to Murano and watched glass making at Ferro-Lazzarini. It was amazing to watch him because he made it look so easy. On Saturday night, we took a gondola through the canal and past Marco Polo and Casanova’s house then under the Bridge of Sighs. It was so quiet and all you could hear was the paddle against the water. It was a gorgeous evening!

On Monday, my parents came up to Paderno and I showed them around the campus. It was a beautiful day and we walked to Crespano and then ate at the pizzeria. I’m so glad they got to see where I’ve been for the past three months! It was a great weekend and I can’t wait to see them again soon!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Travel Woes

During our last travel week, a few friends and I decided to go to Greece despite all the warnings that it was a risky time to visit. I knew we would be mad at ourselves if we didn't go and then it turned out everything would have gone smoothly. So we decided to take a chance and made plans to stay in Santorini for five days. It ended up being one of the best vacations I’ve ever been on! The weather couldn’t have been more perfect and it was absolutely gorgeous. However, we definitely had our fair share of challenges getting there.

It all started off when our bus was late getting to Bassano from Paderno. Once we got there, we were told all buses and trains were on strike, even though they weren't. While we were figuring out what to do, we spotted a bus heading to Padova and hopped on. By that time, we were about 30 minutes behind schedule and hoping we could catch a train to Milan. We ended up being those people running to catch a train and missed it by a few minutes. The next train was leaving at 5:45 in the morning, so all 11 CIMBA students going to Greece decided to camp out in the Padova train station.

Literally five minutes after one of us said, “Well this couldn’t have started off any worse,” an Italian security guard walked up to our group. He said in Italian that the train station was closing in 10 minutes and that we had to leave. So we packed up and tried to figure out what to do next. We ended up begging a man in a local hotel to let 11 of us rent one room for four hours. He gave in and we pushed three beds together and crammed nine people in them and two on the floor. Once five a.m. rolled around, we “checked out” and caught the train to Milan.

Once again, we ran through the train station in Milan, jumped into a taxi and sped off to the Malpensa airport. With a few minutes to spare, our entire group all made it through security and on the plane to Athens. It was a crazy night, but once we made it to Santorini, it was all worth it!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Gaudi and Barcelona

For this past travel weekend, I went to Barcelona, Spain. My mom studied there when she was 19 and my sister spent a summer in Seville. They both loved Barcelona and so I was excited to experience it for myself.

Before going to Barcelona, I had heard a lot about Gaudi and his architecture, but I didn’t know quite what to expect. I knew about La Sagrada Familia and I had seen pictures, but I didn’t know about Parc Guell and the other buildings he designed. I wondered if they would even be recognizable. I think his work ended up being some of the most recognizable architecture I’d ever seen.

We walked up to the Parc Guell area on Saturday and it was amazing. His buildings reminded me of Candy land: the tops looked like they could be made of frosting. Colorful mosaics mixed with huge columns, a stone walkway and palm trees made for a very unique combination.

We walked up to the top of the building and looked out over the city of Barcelona. Everyone was enjoying the view, soaking up the sun and listening to the music. If I could live in Parc Guell, I would move there in a heartbeat! It was a great day.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

AC Milan Soccer Game

This past weekend was very different from the previous ones. A lot of us stayed in Paderno for the majority of the weekend instead of traveling around to other places. It was nice to relax and spend Saturday out in the sunshine and with other CIMBA people. On Sunday, though, a few of us took a bus to the AC Milan soccer game. It was my first soccer game of any kind that I have ever been to. Soccer isn't very popular where I'm from and our school didn't have a team, so this was definitely a new experience for me.

Right as our bus pulled up to the stadium in Milan, the men trying to sell scarves and jerseys were waiting for us. I gave in and bought a jersey to wear even though I knew nothing about AC Milan or any of their players. After shopping around a little bit, we bought amazing sandwiches from the vendors around the stadium. The food at a Milan soccer match was definitely different from a KU football game!

Before the game even started, the Italian fans were chanting and acting crazy. We walked into the stadium and it was a great atmosphere. Even though I know absolutely nothing about soccer, the game was still really exciting to watch. AC Milan ended up winning 3-1 against Atalanta. In some sense, the game was really similar to an NFL or a college basketball game in America, but it was also very different. For one thing, everyone was shouting in a different language, which I've never experienced before. But I also think the Italians seem to be more passionate about the game. Even though it wasn't a big match for them, they were still so excited to cheer on their team.

On a sidenote, it was fun to watch David Beckham play. Since he's on loan right now, it was interesting to hear how the Italians reacted to him. It's kind of apparent that some don't like him playing for their team. I heard one of them say in Italian that he should go back home. Personally, I didn't mind watching him play at all!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Terezín Concentration Camp

During our first travel week, our second stop was Prague in the Czech Republic. We were there for three days and it was a gorgeous city. We walked around and saw the Old Town Square, St. Charles Bridge and the Prague Castle. They were especially beautiful at night when they were all lit up.

On our second day in Prague, we decided to take a bus to the Terezin concentration camp about an hour outside of the city. The bus dropped us off in the small town and we walked across a river to the camp. It was a former military fortress built in the late 18th century and Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand was imprisoned there. Then it was used during WWII as a concentration camp and for POWs.

We toured the entire fortress and saw the prison cells, showers, bathrooms, hospital and even walked through the underground tunnel of the fortress. I think walking into the room with wooden bunk beds was the point that stuck out in my mind. I've always seen clips from movies, documentaries or pictures out of books of the bare accommodations. This time, the room where 100 innocent Jewish people were kept was right in front of me.

Although it was pretty intense visiting Terezin, I'm really glad we took the time to see it for ourselves. I feel like it's something everyone should experience at some point in their lives.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


This past weekend, I went with a group of girls to Carnevale in Venice from Saturday to Sunday. I think the majority of the CIMBA group went and we all had so much fun! I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but it was definitely something I'll be able to look back on in the future.

We spent the first part of the afternoon walking down the crowded, narrow streets looking for the perfect masks to wear. I finally decided on a black and white one with dark green and black feathers on the side. Everyone ended up getting a different one and it was really neat to see what each of us picked out. The outfits people wore were absolutely amazing. I saw a lot of big, medieval costumes in every color you could imagine. They would just stroll through the streets, stopping politely whenever people wanted to take pictures of them or with them.

While I expected to see those types of costumes, I definitely didn't expect to see some of the ones I did. We saw everything from Shrek and the Smirfs to Star Trek and Wizard of Oz characters. It was like a combinatino of Mari Gras and Halloween, but in Venice, Italy. It was definitely a unique experience and we had a great time.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Weekend in Florence

This past weekend I traveled to Florence with a big group of CIMBA students. We were able to see a lot of different things like the Duomo, Michelangelo's David, the Uffizi art gallery, the Ponte Vecchio and an amazing view of the entire city of Florence. The city was beautiful and I had a great time exploring, seeing the sights, eating different Italian foods and dancing until 4 a.m.

My favorite part of the weekend in Florence had to be the view of the city from the top of the hill. Ariana and I walked along the Arno river, bought Nutella gelato and made our way up the steps leading to the top. We climbed up the old stone steps, passed a natural rock waterfall and finally got to the top of the hill. To have the city of Florence at your feet was breathtaking. I tried to capture the moment in pictures, but they could never do it justice.
From the top, the Duomo stood out the most, but Fort Belvedere was also beautiful and is something you can't really see from the city. Its rock wall led up the hillside and was surrounded by bright green grass, just like the pictures you see of the rolling hills in Tuscany. It was definitely a view I'll remember forever.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Journey to Italy

To my surprise, my trip to Italy went extremely smooth, with only a few minor bumps along the way. The moment that stands out in my mind the most about arriving in Venice, Italy was my first day exploring the city and the feeling of total freedom and independence.

I arrived in Venice on Friday, January 15, checked into my hostel and slept straight through until the next morning. I didn't know anyone yet from our CIMBA group and was attempting to conquer Venice on my own. I started off walking mid-morning and followed the large group of tourists and locals across bridges and down paths through small shops and markets. I was just trying to stay on track, while taking in all the beautiful old buildings, canals, bridges and gondolas. The sun was shining, the air was crisp and it was a moment that will stay with me forever. I just kept thinking to myself that I was in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

While it was a little intimidating landing in Venice and navigating myself through the airport, across bridges and to my hostel, I think it was a great experience for me. It's nice to meet new people, but it's also important to figure things out on your own. In the end, I'll look back at that first day in Venice and recognize it as my first step of independence and freedom in this amazing experience.